Saturday, February 25, 2006


So I'm not a huge Winter Olympics fan. I never grew up with snow, and even though I've had plenty of opportunities to go skiing in my life, I've always passed. Just doesn't appeal to me. So most of the winter sports are way out of my realm of relatibility, with the possible exception of ice skating. There was an ice rink in the big mall in Dallas near where I grew up, and I went skating there for birthday parties and with my friends - so I can appreciate how hard it is for Olympic Skaters to do what they do. Maybe that's why I got up early Japan time on Friday morning to watch the finals of the Womens' free skate.

I'm glad I did, because Japan's Arakawa Shizuka was flawless - so graceful and beautiful - she really deserves the Gold Medal that now adorns her neck.

Being the only medal winner of any type so far in this games for Japan, she instantly became a national hero Friday morning, and I'm sure she'll be all over the chat shows and advertisements within moments of getting back into Japan from Turin.
She is also the first woman from an Asian country to win a gold medal in skating and the 9th gold medal winner in Japanese history in the winter Olympics and only the 2nd female gold medal winner. Quite an accomplishment.

One funny thing - I was reading some of the news coverage of the event on MSN later that day and they decribed Arakawa as emotionless, but she came alive after being declared the winner and even flashed the "V" for Victory sign at the camera. Hahaha - I had to laugh. Anyone that's spent ANY time in Japan or even clicked on my photos on this site knows that when the Japanese hold up two fingers in a V shape they are simply "posing" for a photo - they do it in EVERY photo - and if you asked them they'd say it was the "peace" sign. Heck, most couldn't tell you what letter the word "Victory" started with if their life depended on it and even then they couldn't pronounce it - most Japanese people pronounce V sounding like B. Just another example of a Western journalist interpreting events based on a cultural standard that has no relation to Japan.

Anyway - omedetou gozaimasu to Ms. Arakawa! Her gold medal has given the truly downtrodden and depressed and winless Japanese something to smile and cheer about.


Trivia for week of Feb. 20th

How does Howie (Eugene Levy) tell Charlene (Queen Latifah) that he likes her in the 2003 movie Bringing Down the House?

Last Week's Answer (highlight line below):
Silvio Dante

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Random thoughts

How was your Valentine's Day? Mine sucked this year - not only because my love-life is non-existent, but also because my school told the female students not to bring chocolate and sweets to school this year, meaning I only got a few surreptitious homemade goodies and couldn't openly hand out any candy to the kids. :(

I realized the other day that I'm completely comfortable now with driving on the wrong side of the road - the left side. Driving on the left has become natural for me now and I don't have to concentrate on driving as much as when I first got here, which may not be a good thing. I still occasionally walk up to the wrong side of the car and attempt to get in on the passenger side, so I guess my years and years of driving in America haven't completely worn off yet, but I'm so used to driving on the left now that I'll have to re-adjust when I get back to America. It won't help that the only foreign country I'll probably visit this year will be to see my folks in England, where they also drive on the wrong side of the road. :P

Japan has won ZERO medals in the Winter Olympics so far - it's really sad to watch Japanese TV and see them get excited about 8th place or somesuch. All the big, touted Japanese athletes have been failing to even make the finals of some of the events - our snowboarders got zilch and our Speed Skaters also failed to medal.

Wasn't able to watch the America vs. Japan soccer friendly that took place in San Francisco last week, but according to the paper it was a pretty good game, mostly dominated by the American squad who emerged victorious with a 3-2 win. I'll root for Japan at the World Cup, but their chances of even making it out of the first round are slim as they have Brazil and Australia in their group. I'm hoping for good things from the American team.

I really miss non-smoking restaurants. Virtually every public building in California is non-smoking, so it has been a real adjustment for me to get used to people smoking around me, especially at work and at meals. My local McDonald's is split into a non-smoking and a smking section, but all that means is the tables on one side of the dining area are designated "non-smoking" and the other tables, located mere feet away and separated by a low wall/partition, are "Smoke 'em if ya got 'em" territory. And being a male under the age of 50 who doesn't smoke means I'm way outnumbered here - nationally more than half of Japanese men under 50 smoke regularly, but here in rural Shimane, it certainly seems the percentage is more like 70 or 80%.

I get my Entertainment Weekly magazines in drips and drabs and often 4 to 8 weeks after the issue came out in the US. I just read that actor Chris Penn, Sean's younger brother, died January 24th at the age of 40. He was great in two of my all-time favorite films - Reservoir Dogs & Footloose. And just today I read that author Peter Benchley died this week. Jaws is often at the top of my personal "Best Films" list, and I loved the book that Benchley wrote, giving life to the shark on the page in a very creative and vivid way. He even appears in the film for a few seconds as a TV reporter on the beach on the 4th of July.

My cousin from England, Yu-Lin, is visiting me starting on Friday. We're off to Hiroshima for the weekend, so I hope it doesn't rain all weekend. Pictures of our adventures and more updates next week.

Be good!


Monday, February 13, 2006

Trivia for week of Feb. 13th

Which character on The Sopranos is fond of quoting from the Godfather trilogy?

Last Week's Answer (highlight line below):
Marilyn Manson

Monday, February 06, 2006

Trivia for week of Feb. 6th

All the members of which rock band choose their stage names by taking the first name of a female icon and the surname of a famous murderer?

Last Week's Answer (highlight line below):
Ellen DeGeneres

kyushoku at Taisha Chu

kyushoku at Taisha Chu
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

"Kyuushoku" means school lunch and in my schools, all the kids eat the same lunch everyday. On a few occasions every year the kids bring their own lunch ("obento") to school, but most days they prepare the trays and distribute the food and eat together with their home room class. There is no cafeteria.

Kyuushoku for me is a roll of the dice everyday. Since I don't eat any fish, and fish is a huge part of the diet here, it oftens means I eat very little at lunch time.

Here is a typical school lunch - some kind of soup or stew - notice the tentacle in today's offering - rice or bread, and some fruit for dessert - today a mini orange called a mikan and then some main dish and salad - today a whole fried fish. So this day I ate the plain rice with some soy sauce I keep stashed in my desk and the orange and drank my milk. Milk is the only beverage offered and many of the kids don't drink it so I guess they go thirsty, since there are no water fountains in the schools.

I pay monthly (about $3 a day) for school lunch and I pay it because it's really just more convenient overall - altho I would estimate that I only eat about 45% of the food.

You can click on any of the pics and be taken to a few more examples at my Flickr site.

One week this year I'll take a picture every day from Monday to Friday of the lunch and you can get a better feeling of a typical week's offerings.

Are you hungry?? :)

Lunch at Taisha JH - 1

Lunch at Taisha JH - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is a decent meal for me - bread is good for filling me up and the bread is usually really tasty. They give a small packet of jam to eat with it since it's seen as a dessert item. So I always get some funny looks when I eat with my kids and I tear off pieces of bread and dip it into my soup or in the case of this meal my pea-soup-like stew.

Some deep-fried chicken nugget things and a slice of watermelon. As for the "salad" on the side, see the post below. An almost fish-free lunch day.

We never have rice and bread on the same day, even though bread is seen as a dessert most of the time. The good thing about bread too is that many of the kids don't like bread, so there is usually some left over, which the teachers can take home. With some Hokkaido cheese, they make tasty after-school snacks.

Lunch at Taisha JH - 2

Lunch at Taisha JH - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This might be hard to see, but if you click on the pic you can go to a larger version at my Flickr site.

In the salad from the above meal, they put these tiny fish - can you see them with the tiny black eye spots? *shudder* I don't go anywhere near this stuff.

It's so hard being a non-fish-eater in Japan - they sneak it into everything.

lunch with 6th graders at Taisha Sho

lunch with 6th graders at Taisha Sho
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is actually a decent school lunch for me - this time at one of my elementary school - Taisha Shogakko.

Curry and rice, with a kind of egg omlete and then a crepe for dessert with a creamy yogurt inside.

A good "Jason lunch."